Who is Jesus? This question reveals a major breach between what Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians believe.
Several years ago, when I was meeting regularly with Abbie, a Jehovah’s Witness, she gave me an attractive little booklet entitled, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” The book goes through the “history” of the Doctrine of the Trinity before getting into theology and scripture itself. At first, I glossed over the history of the trinity, pretty much taking Watchtower’s word for it, and focused with my JW friends on scripture regarding Christ’s identity (I figured scripture was more important than history anyway, right?).
But when one of my aunts revealed some of her research into the historical segments of the booklet, I knew I needed to see the “whole story” behind these quoted passages. Watchtower did not make it easy to double-check these quotes. Although they did cite sources, they did not cite page numbers or chapters (there is no bibliography in the booklet). Thankfully someone else had done the lion’s share of locating the exact sources of the whole quotes, and I only needed to search out these sources to ascertain their meaning for myself.
I plan to re-type my notes made from researching this booklet (I have 6 pages of notes just from researching the first half of the booklet!) and post them here (eventually — I’ve really not much time for blogging these days!). I will include links to online books or to real books (for sale at Amazon or possibly for free at your library) whenever possible so you can look up quotes in their intended context. I wouldn’t want you to take my word for it — check these out for yourselves!
After typing up my notes regarding the history of trinitarian doctrine , I plan to list scripture verses that demonstrate there is only God, that the Father is God, that Jesus is God, and that the Spirit is God. I’ve never been one to be picky about the word “trinity.” It means nothing holy to me, in and of itself. The concept behind the word, however, is precious and can be found from Genesis to Revelation in the Holy Scriptures.
For those of you not interested in wading through my (possibly boring) pages of notes regarding quotes and historical teachings, I thought I’d mention a shining example of a quote published in the Should You Believe in the Trinity booklet that was taken out of context.
If a Jehovah’s Witnesses friend of yours shares this booklet with you, please look with them at this quote from Jesuit Edmund Fortman, on page 6, under the heading Testimony of the Greek Scriptures:
“Jesuit Fortman states: ‘The New Testament writers…give us no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons…Nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead.'”
Now, I must say that Watchtower used Jesuit Fortman’s exact words.
And the Watchtower was honest in revealing to us when words have been omitted from the quotes by using …’s.
However, if you were to read Jesuit Fortman’s words in their entirety, would you see that he meant the same thing Watchtower tells us he means?
As you read Fortman’s words for yourself, consider what you think his intention was in writing them. Was he out to discredit or validate the doctrine of the trinity? Was he out to show that the Bible does not reveal a trinitarian doctrine or that it does indeed so?
Please see the .pdf version of The Triune God by Jesuit Fortman online to read this for yourself. The full quote can be found on pages xv and xvi of the Introduction. (The final phrase in the above-mentioned quote after the last “…” is not found in The Triune God until several PAGES later, in Chapter 2, page 16, if you’d like to read that quote in its entirety as well.)
I placed the words from the quote below that Watchtower used in the booklet in italics. The rest of the quote was hidden in the …’s.
“If we take the New Testament writers together they will tell us there is only one God, the creator and lord of the universe, who is the Father of Jesus. They call Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Savior, Word, Wisdom. They assign Him the divine functions of creation, salvation, judgment. Sometimes they call Him God explicitly. They do not speak as fully and clearly of the Holy Spirit as they do of the Son, but at times they coordinate Him with the Father and the Son and put Him on a level with them as far as divinity and personality are concerned. They give us in their writings a triadic ground plan and triadic formulas. They do not speak in abstract terms of nature, substance, person, relation, circumincession, mission, but they present in their own ways the ideas that are behind these terms. They give no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But they do give us an elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated.”
There were enough discrepancies between several passages in the booklet and their author’s original intentions to cause me to believe that Watchtower was being deliberately deceptive in its presentation.